Communicating Climate Science (but don’t mention the b-word)


There, I said it.

Which, as far as I can remember, is more than it was mentioned in the 7 talks or during the panel discussion at yesterday’s RMetS meeting on Communicating Climate Science.

Just to re-iterate, in a 3 hour meeting about Communicating Climate Science I don’t remember anyone saying the word “blog”.

Also to be clear, I thought the meeting was really interesting and well worth going to to. But, looking back on the event, I’m amazed that I don’t think anyone mentioned the impact of blogging on climate science communication, how it could be used better by the community or even that it exists.

Which is odd because two of the speakers are very good bloggers (Alice Bell and Adam Corner) and I noticed a few in the audience (e.g. Tamsin Edwards and Bob Ward, who seems like a blogger without a blog, unless I’ve missed it!)

So, did anyone else notice this or did I just nod off at the wrong moment?

Tags: , , ,

10 Responses to “Communicating Climate Science (but don’t mention the b-word)”

  1. omnologos Says:

    It depends what the goal of the meeting actually was.

    I (@omnologos) asked on Twitter, having followed the #rmsclim tag:

    Tell me @BarryJWoods is #rmsclim just a bunch of people who cannot communicate trying to ask each other why and thus failing to communicate?

    Barry (who was in attendance) replied:

    Tim Palmer sounded like a scientist. otherwise yes.

    And Roddy Campbell (again one of the public at the meeting) added:

    first slide asked if purpose of comms to gain profile for yourself and your institutions. That’s today purpose!

    The absence of any mention of widely-used communication tools like blogs in at a meeting called “Communicating Climate Science” is certainly compatibly with Roddy’s interpretation of it. Add to that the silly idea of starting the whole thing by distributing Stern’s recommendations for communication (as if they’d done anything good to anybody apart from for the good Lord’s) and the final picture is as depressing as ever.

    A number of prominent scientists and organisations working about Climate Change are still dreaming they can dictate what people think.

    • andyrussell Says:

      Well, I suppose the point of all RMetS meetings is to share and discuss new findings within a broad theme. In that respect, I think it kind of worked, although it had to superficially cross a few disciplines.

      They were also launching the new RMetS Climate Science Communication group so maybe there’ll be more focussed meetings in the future, although RMetS Special Interest Groups rarely do much. Hopefully this one will be different.

      I don’t think Tim was the only worthwhile speaker, though. He’s a brilliant scientist and he’s good at being that. But the point of the LWEC study was that not everyone likes that – some people want something a bit more personal. This led to a bit of apparent contradiction in the meeting: Tim was (sort-of) saying that he dispassionately presents as much science as he possibly can; the LWEC study seemed to say that that approach doesn’t work for everyone.

      I also don’t see a problem in the “gaining profile” point. Take Brian Cox: he’s doing something he loves; people are learning stuff; Manchester physics are turning away students in their 100s and; they’ll do pretty well in the REF Impact stuff. I think that’s what was meant by gaining profile.

  2. Jennifer Says:

    I saw the RMetS meeting and thought what a shame it was I couldn’t go, and yeah, it sounds kind of weird that blogs weren’t mentioned as a tool to communicate climate science (not that I have a blog or so, but I guess it is one of many tools..). I will be going to a workshop on Communicating Climate Science at the AGU meeting in December, I reckon they’ll say how important blogging is (that all scientists should consider it) – but I guess I’ll find out. Do you know whether a meeting summary of the RMetS meeting will appear in Weather sometime?

    • andyrussell Says:

      Hi Jennifer

      Good to hear from you!

      No idea if there’ll be a report in Weather but I’ve asked one of our students who went to write a more complete report for our department blog, I’ll post that when it’s written.

      Also, a few of the talks drew heavily on the LWEC report that was published recently. You’ve probably already seen it but if not, it’s here: Climate Science, the Public and the News Media.

      • omnologos Says:

        Yikes. The guy looks even scarier than usual, with his eyes poorly illuminated and the face emotionless. Who did they have in mind? Moriarty? Palpatine?

        More importantly…can’t they find a good PR person to handle this stuff?

      • pendantry Says:

        @omnologos That the most crucial roles go to actors might explain why we’re in this sorry mess in the first place (think: Ronald Reagan).

  3. Felicity Perry Says:

    Hi Andy.

    I thought it was strange too. No mention of blogs whatsoever! So you think that’s because it was primarily organised by scientists that are generally bad at embracing social media/web 2.0 mediums? I know a few scientists who do blog, but I know a lot more who do not. I guess it’s probably a time thing – i.e. most scientists are overstretched as it is with paper & proposal writing & research & teaching.

    For me the three things that came out of the meeting were

    1. The community needs develop (and embrace??) the communication of uncertainty.
    2. Trust needs to be (re)built.
    3. The community needs to decide if scientists should be impartial and objective or passionate and engaging*.

    * A combo of the two of these is not impossible, but it is probably a thin line to tread – you are going to get criticised from both angles if you don’t get it exactly right.

    For me, thinking about the language of risk is the next thing I am going to research.


  4. pendantry Says:

    This is an intriguing topic. Blogging is ubiquitous, to many it’s a dirty word, and its effectiveness (for a variety of reasons) is dubious.

  5. In the immortal words of Father Jack Hackett… | Our Clouded Hills Says:

    […] Andy Russell's weather and climate blog « Communicating Climate Science (but don’t mention the b-word) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: